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Elizabeth Keckley and Freedom’s Labor

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Abstract:

I read Elizabeth Keckley’s Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), as a model for African American Reconstruction writing. In this text, Keckley uses her experience as a seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln as an example of new opportunities for former slaves. Keckley deftly weaves her own experiences as a former slave and those of freedpersons who migrate to Washington D.C. into descriptions of her association with the Lincolns. Keckley writes in the margins of the story of this first family, using stories of popular figures as background for her agenda to articulate the plight of emancipated black Americans. She furthermore shows the inextricable nature of freedpersons and members of the black middle class, some former slaves themselves.
I argue that Keckley’s narrative serves multiple purposes on its own terms. As former slave (free woman at the time of writing) who becomes proprietor of her own labor, Keckley inscribes a newly developing black middle class and a revised model of black free womanhood. I argue that in this text, freedom allows expanded employment and activist roles for women, and that Keckley’s personal testimony, political commentary, and cultural work are intertwined. Her freedom is the freedom to contract her own labor and to help improve the plights of freedmen and freedwomen.
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Association:
Name: 95th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436074_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Lewis, Janaka. "Elizabeth Keckley and Freedom’s Labor" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina, Sep 29, 2010 <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436074_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lewis, J. B. , 2010-09-29 "Elizabeth Keckley and Freedom’s Labor" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 95th Annual Convention, Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p436074_index.html

Publication Type: Individual Paper
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: I read Elizabeth Keckley’s Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House (1868), as a model for African American Reconstruction writing. In this text, Keckley uses her experience as a seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln as an example of new opportunities for former slaves. Keckley deftly weaves her own experiences as a former slave and those of freedpersons who migrate to Washington D.C. into descriptions of her association with the Lincolns. Keckley writes in the margins of the story of this first family, using stories of popular figures as background for her agenda to articulate the plight of emancipated black Americans. She furthermore shows the inextricable nature of freedpersons and members of the black middle class, some former slaves themselves.
I argue that Keckley’s narrative serves multiple purposes on its own terms. As former slave (free woman at the time of writing) who becomes proprietor of her own labor, Keckley inscribes a newly developing black middle class and a revised model of black free womanhood. I argue that in this text, freedom allows expanded employment and activist roles for women, and that Keckley’s personal testimony, political commentary, and cultural work are intertwined. Her freedom is the freedom to contract her own labor and to help improve the plights of freedmen and freedwomen.


Similar Titles:
Human Rights, Transnational Labor and Complaint Bodies: A Quantitative Analysis of Cases Brought to International Labor Organization's Committee on Freedom of Association: 1945-2003

Labor, Free Labor, and Freedom in the Post–Emancipation Caribbean


 
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